Daily Archives: May 3, 2012

Opting Out of the Economy? Is PLEX Cheating?

I have written about PLEX before.

(And I have used that graphic before… look at the price of PLEX in the background!)

I have praised PLEX as a way to stem the illicit RMT market.  I have wondered if a game like WoW could support something like PLEX.  I have marveled at CCP allowing PLEX to be treated as an in-game object like any other, and how that lead to the inevitable giant loss event.

But I have never really bothered with the idea of it being cheating.

Primarily because, technically, PLEX is not and cannot be considered cheating because it is allowed, created, and administered by CCP.  They say it is okay and they make the rules, so therefore it is not cheating, QED.  And even before PLEX, CCP allowed the purchase of time codes with ISK, the in game currency.  PLEX just removed some of the complexities.  (You can still buy time codes and turn them into PLEX, which some web sites use as a way to get financial support.)

But that aside, there is the question of PLEX giving those with money an advantage over those without, and this is the aspect that Rohan appears to be wrestling with over at Blessing of Kings.

I have been reading Blessing of Kings for ages, it being a source for all things Paladin related in World of Warcraft.

But Rohan has recently ventured into New Eden, and I have been following his posts on the subject with interest.  Jaded after more than five years of exposure to EVE, it is interesting to read about somebody entering the game afresh and discovering its myriad complexities, especially somebody with a critical eye like his.

He has recently hit upon PLEX as being something that allows a player to skip content, or to cheat.  The focus seems, from my read, to be entirely on the economic aspect of the game.

He divides the economic sphere into “producers” and “consumers,” something I find to be a bit of a false dichotomy.

First, there is a lot of gray area in between the two from my point of view.  There are lost of people who just like the industry side of the game.  And there are, I am sure, people who just buy PLEX to turn pirate and hunt other players.  But in between?

What of the mission runner who focuses only on the mission reward and thus optimizes his efforts to completing them as fast as possible?  He never loots, he never salvages, and he certainly never stops to mine any tasty ore that might show up in a mission.  He merely consumes the mission content, adding to the market place approximately the same as the person who buys PLEX.

And what about me?  For the last four months I have been in null sec, I have ratted a little bit for bounties, but have pretty much steered clear of the economic sphere.  I have been in coalition fleets for battles, and when I lose a ship my alliance reimburses me the cost of my ship and sells me a replacement at a very good price, thus subsidizing my play.  How does that differ, in terms of economic impact, from the buyer of PLEX?  My choice has essentially opted me out of the production aspect of the game as well.

Second, the consumption side of the does, in fact, add to the economic sphere of the game.  Nothing keeps the production people going like some pirates out there blowing up ships.  The so-called consumer is in fact a very important aspect of the producer’s life.  Without him, the producer is done.

Third, there is the standard argument about how ISK does not translate into power in the game.  You cannot jump ahead in skill points to allow you to fly a more powerful ship, you have to train them one point at a time like everybody else.  Yes, you can buy implants, and those do help some, but the noob to titan training plan is still most of a year even with +5 modules.

More importantly, ISK does not impart skill.  Ships in the game are all vulnerable.  In WoW, a level 1 player in starter gear would be severely challenged to kill an AFK top tier raider in full gear.  There is a vast discrepancy in power between the two, imparted by equipment and skills that come with levels.  But in EVE, the wily frigate pilot can take down a strategic cruiser.  (The first kill in that post, which made Dabigredboat quite smug.)

Finally, the consumer of content that uses PLEX does add something to the game.  The person who buys PLEX for cash and sells it on the market for ISK gives the producer the option to pay for his game time via the fruit of his labors.  CCP still gets paid, the guy selling the PLEX gets his ISK, and producer gets a real life reward for his work.  For me, that is high on the list of “best features ever.”

Rohan then goes on to a horrible analogy, though in fairness, I should say that I think almost all analogies are horrible.  People who agree with you already go, “Yeah!” while people who disagree pick apart the points where the analogy falls down (and the analogy ALWAYS falls down under close examination… if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be an analogy) and nobody’s opinion is altered one iota. (See Scott Adams.)

Anyway, this analogy involved a theoretical immortality pod that would let you opt out of PvP for 30 days as the opposing side of the PLEX issue.  To my mind, this is absolutely not the case.  Said pod would be game breaking… opting out of PvP in what is a PvP game… and would literally remove content, as opposed to PLEX, which merely changes one aspect of a players interaction with the game.  Your PLEX buying gank pirate is still creating demand for production, still buying from the market, and giving the producer something special.  The immortality pod is a literal opt-out of the nature of the game.  It isn’t skipping the part of the game he doesn’t enjoy, it is skipping the game.  Enough people do that and the end result is the death or production as an ongoing concern.

Anyway, this is all debating society level discussion.  CCP is not going to take out PLEX and they certainly are not going to introduce an immortality pod.  But it is always interesting to try and hash out what PLEX means to the game as a whole.

What do you think of PLEX?

[Addendum: If you are looking for other ways to make ISK, read this excellent article.]

New Blogger Initiative pointers of the day that can be gleaned from this post:

-Taking long comment responses to other people’s blog posts and turning them into posts on your own blog is an easy way to come up with a post idea, and fosters a sense of community between blogs by linking them together in some sort of web-like structure.  (Link whoring)

-Link back to past posts you have made on the same subject.  It keeps you from having to repeat yourself, it gets people to look something not on the front page of your blog, and when some site steals your content, at least you’ll get a bit of traffic back with those links.  (Link whoring)

-Polls are an easy way to finish up a post when you aren’t clear where you are headed and you feel you need to distract your readers from the weakness in you argument. (Hiding your link whoring)